It's easy to think that as an adult, I'm a fully formed person, ready to take on the world whatever the challenges. But I admit it, I'm still growing, still changing and every mistake I make is an opportunity to learn something new, move forward a more enlightened individual. The first step of which is acknowledging those life lessons I've learned in the past year, the springboard to having a more rewarding and fulfilling life in 2014. We're all in it together, this sort of confusing thing called life. So here are 9 life lessons I've learned that can be shared with whomever you choose (and I hope you do!).
The Importance of Curating Friends and Loved Ones
When I became a full-time freelance writer, I was a bit lost. I made the leap without doing much research and spent a lot of time falling back on failsafe relationships that felt easy and familiar in the moment. But there was a problem. As lovely as my friends from a past life were, there wasn't much we connected on anymore. It wasn't until the second half of 2013 that I started reaching out to connect with the people who were more in line with the life I was starting to build. It occurred to me to start a new, more personal and relevant to me Facebook account. I reached out to fellow writers via Twitter and professionals in fashion and culture via LinkedIn. All of a sudden, my communications started to matter and really feel fulfilling. I'll always love my friends who knew me from my younger days, but now I know to vet and curate people with an eye toward having genuine things in common. It also helps, when you have goals in mind, to be around others whose goals are firmly set for themselves. The old adage is true! You are who your friends are.
The Value of Paying Attention—to Myself
When I'm in my home state, I indulge. I don't just mean I have a french fry here and there, I have fries and burgers and beer. I wear pajamas during the day sometimes. I know, it's ridiculous, but the real mistake is not paying attention to the changes I might provoke by doing so. I realized, losing one's health (and many other things) is a result of not paying attention because doing so becomes scary and uncomfortable. You might see something in the mirror you don't like, so you avoid mirrors altogether. And bam! You've lost your way. I've also started noting my feelings and thoughts privately on the regular, all the better to be comfortable with them and share them with others sans the drama of my earlier days. So keep your eye on the metaphorical mirror, pay attention to what's going on with you and you'll make more right moves for yourself than wrong ones.
Seeing the Other Side of the Coin
Youngest children tend to be self-serving, and well, bratty. The world revolves around us! That was me for most of my life. I can't tell you how many times I felt angry or hurt because I'd misinterpreted something someone else did or said with no thought to where they were coming from. In fact, I did it just last week. (Hey, learning is a process.) You will always improve and maintain your relationships by thinking of how another person feels before you decide how you feel. And that thing from a week ago? I was able to save it at the last minute by thinking of the other person's perspective. In the past, I would have been, well…a brat about it.
The Necessity of Alone Time
This isn't the first time you've heard this. I'd heard it probably a million times before I got it. Because until you spend time alone, you can't really know its value. And I don't mean spending a Saturday night in. I mean spending seven Saturday nights in—in a row—or 52 for that matter. I thought there was something "off" about being by myself. Like something might be wrong with me and sure, I got lonesome at times. But it wasn't until then that I started to really figure out who I was and start spending my time more enjoyably and productively.
Self-Sacrifice for Your Own Goals When You're Still Single
Making sacrifices for others is a beautiful thing. But women do it too often when they have their own lives to pursue. I measured my worthiness as a friend and partner by "always being there" for everyone else. Not only is it okay, but absolutely essential to make sacrifices to move yourself forward. That is until you have a ring on it and a bun in or out of the oven, then you have others to consider. (I'm assuming. I don't know since I have neither yet.) You'll have friends and family maybe giving you some gruff about not being available. It's okay! That's often part of the sacrifice and it's worth it to get to where you want to be. The best friends and family will always be there. You don't need to apologize and you certainly shouldn't be rude. Just be honest and kindly say you're taking rain checks at the moment.
I Can't Handle It (Right Now)
Do you have a phrase that allows you to un-shoulder an unnecessary burden? Because you should. Mine is, "I can't handle it." It's my sarcastic way of giving myself permission not to be loaded down with information or ideas or anything that doesn't really matter. Or isn't moving me forward. If someone is gossiping, I can't handle it. Found out an ex-boyfriend is getting married and an anxiety attack is threatening? Can't handle it. Of course you can handle it all, but you don't deserve to let it disrupt your vibe in the moment. For anything that needs to be dealt with, make a note in the future to deal with it. But for right now, it's okay not to handle so much of what we assume we have to take on the minute it comes our way.
You Just Don't Know the Cards Someone Else Was Dealt
We live in a media culture that is constantly praising the wunderkind. The 22-year-old movie star or entrepreneur. It's enough to make anyone worry they're all dried up (or their dreams are) by age 25. But more and more, when I delve into an overachiever's background I find they were born with certain privileges most of us aren't. They come from a wealthy and/or connected family or an atypically involved one. You know, the parents who quit their jobs and move to L.A. to manage their 6-year-old's modeling/acting/singing career. That brings me to another point: No matter how you slice it, success takes years of hard work. If the wunderkind is a rock star at 19, it's probably because she started taking music seriously when she was 6. So don't beat yourself up, keep working. Perhaps you started later, perhaps you didn't have the privileges someone else had. You may have to bootstrap yourself from a lower tier, but that's something to be proud of. We can't all be Kardashians.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
I've seen this pin no less than 600 times, I think. And every time I see it, I feel a sense of release. Think about it, if you weren't comparing yourself to anyone else, you're pretty awesome. You're beautiful, you're perfect. Life is going just as it should be. And that's the way we should feel all the time. For any of us living in the real world with any social media account, this mantra bears repeating: comparison is the thief of joy. When I look back on my stressful early days of freelancing, when the cell phone bill might not have been paid, I didn't have time to compare my career to anyone else's, I was just trying to go after work that reflected my interests and expertise. And I got some great portfolio samples that are helping me continue to move forward. If I'd been saying, "Susie might not take this gig or Joe who's been in the business for 15 years," I would've been dead in the water. And to this day, I regret making some choices based on what I thought others might do or approve of instead of what felt right to me.
Drink Ice Water
And finally, one of the most important routines I've incorporated into my life is drinking ice water. A big glass, at least one per day. Why? Well, duh, we're all supposed to drink water daily. But I've found it does more than just help you keep away water retention and provide for your skin. Water prevents me from downing that fourth cup of coffee that will keep awake until 4 a.m. The crisp, ultra-cold sensation jars my senses, making me feel alert, reminding me that lethargy is temporary. It fills me up between meals. It gives me something to grab for when a sentence just isn't coming my way. It gives me a little break, even if only for a second. It's divine.